Visa rules change but the door remains open

Non-EU students still able to pursue sub-degree qualifications. John Morgan writes

February 10, 2010

Changes to visa rules for international students aimed at preventing abuse by economic migrants have been announced by the Government.

The new requirements in the Tier 4 element of the UK’s points-based immigration system, for students from outside the European Union, are focused on those taking qualifications below degree level.

However, there is no mention of a blanket ban on students from outside the EU pursuing qualifications such as A levels in the UK, which the Government had at one stage seemed likely to impose.

British universities feared that this would reduce their international intake by ending the flow of students who gain A levels then stay in the UK to take degree courses.

The new rules mean that overseas students taking courses below degree level can work only ten hours a week, instead of the 20 hours currently allowed.

And overseas students on courses that are shorter than six months will no longer be able to bring dependants to the UK.

In a memorandum explaining the changes, the Home Office says: “The Prime Minister’s review of Tier 4 was prompted by concerns about the sharp rise in student applications since the introduction of Tier 4.

“The review team, comprising officials from the UK Border Agency and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, were asked to assess whether the current Tier 4 policy strikes the appropriate balance between facilitating the access of genuine students to education in the UK and preventing abuse by economic migrants.”

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